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  THE CRIMSON CORRAL: Western Memories
The HOPALONG CASSIDY You Thought You Knew
By Tim Lasiuta

Which Hopalong Cassidy do you like?

Do you think of the Hopalong Cassidy of television and movie fame, the Hopalong Cassidy that drank milk, the Hopalong Cassidy who was nice to almost everyone, and never swore?

Or do you like the Hopalong Cassidy who was a drinker, smoker, gambler, fighter, and ornery as a wildcat on a hunt?

Chances are, if you are a baby boomer, you don’t know the latter Cassidy, and only remember Bill Boyd as the man in black. If you don’t know the drinking, swearing, gambling, fighting, Cassidy, you are missing something.

Clich her for more HOPPY!Hopalong Cassidy was born in the fertile imagination of Clarence E Mulford in 1905. The first of the ‘Bar 20’ sagas, "The Fight at Bucksin", was printed in "Outing Magazine" in December, 1905. For over 45 years, the Hopalong Cassidy of Clarence E Mulford was the diametric opposite of Bill Boyd and the Hollywood image.

As a matter of fact, in the first Hopalong novel, "Bar 20" , consisted of 8 "Outing" stories, Hoppy shoots up a town drunk, kills, gambles (and wins), prospects for gold, and almost falls in ‘love’.

The book ends with a warning "Why don’t you get away while you can? Why do you want to throw yourself against certain death? I don’t want my pleasure marred by a murder, an’ that is what it will be if you makes a gun-ply at Hopalong. He’ll shoot you as he did yore buttons. Take yore pretty clothes an’ yore pretty cayuse an’ go where this is not known, an’ if ever again you feels like killing Hopalong, get drunk an’ forget it."

(Bar 20, page 382)

The Hopalong Cassidy of Clarence E Mulford was described by Mulford as "His Stetson was five to ten years old, and had withstood the suns, rains, dusts and winds for all that time, and he had slept with it under his hips time without number. Being a horseman and bow-legged, the outer edges of his boot heels were badly worn down, and it is doubtful if they had had ten coats of polish in their existence; and they were likely cowhide boots to begin with. After all, when a rancher hired a cow-hand (and that’s what they were—cow-hands), he hired the man to ride range, break horses, cut hay, stack it, round-up, throw, hog-tie, and brand cattle. That man would likely smell like a horse." (letter to J D Tropp)

The Hopalong Cassidy of Hollywood was far different. Bill Boyd’s Hoppy possessed a clean, relatively new white Stetson, he was not bow-legged, nor did he limp. His clothes were clean, and well pressed, and rarely were shown dirty. His boots, were not the boots of a cowboy, but more that of a dude. The Hollywood Hoppy may have ridden range, but unless he carried a tailor, cleaner, and bootmaker with him during his work, he would still have smelled like a horse, and looked like a cow-hand.

Intelectually speaking, the Mulford Hoppy would rather have beat the bad guy up instead of try to talk his way out of a scrap. He would have shot first in warning, then he would let his 45 pistols do his talking. The Hollywood Hoppy would have talked first, then fought.

The Mulford Hoppy fought range wars. The Hollywood Hoppy stopped range wars.

His Hopalong Cassidy novels include "Bar 20" (1907), "Hopalong Cassidy" (1910), "Bar 20 Days" (1911), "The Coming of Cassidy" (1913), "The Man From Bar 20" (1918), "The Bar 20 Three" (1921), "Hopalong Cassidy Returns" (1924), "Hopalong Cassidy’s Protégé" (1926), "Bar 20 Rides Again" (1926), "Hopalong Cassidy and the Eagles Brood" (1931), "Hopalong Cassidy Takes Cards" (1937), and his final Hoppy novel, "Hopalong Cassidy Serves A Writ" (1941). As well as a few other Hopalong Cassidy short stories, his final published story appeared in June of 1953. He also wrote novels that featured other characters from the Bar 20 sagas. Such as Tex Ewalt, J C Corson, and Mesquite Jenkins. He also wrote numerous fillers for Argosy, Frontier, Short Stories, Pearsons, and West magazines.

Over his lifetime, his publishing record (with A C McLurg, Grosset and Dunlap, Doubleday, A L Burt, Dell and Popular Books) and the resulting royalties have earned him as one of the top 5 pulp writers of all times. Max Brand, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Zane Grey were his compatriots in success.

Harry "Pop" Sherman produced the first Hopalong Cassidy movie in 1935. The prematurely gray Bill Boyd portrayed the popular character differently. As noted above, he played the character as moral, caring, and compassionate in "Hopalong Cassidy".

Well received by audiences, the ‘new’ Hopalong Cassidy took the entertainment world by storm for 20 more years. 65 pictures were to follow that would place Hoppy and Topper in the entertainment hall of fame. In 1949, Bill Boyd purchased the rights to Hopalong Cassidy from Clarence Mulford with all that he owned, and within a year he had taken the merchandising world by storm. The Hopalong pictures he had made for 14 years were playing everywhere in America. Bill Boyd’s big gamble had paid off. Hoppy was it, and Bill Boyd had become Hopalong Cassidy just as Clayton Moore had become the Lone Ranger.

His television show, which was a ground breaker as well, premiered in 1949, and when the 66 movies had run in edited form, he went on to produce new episodes for his millions of fans.

In addition to his television success, Hopalong Cassidy appeared on the radio, in the newspapers, on the newsstands in comic book form, and his image appeared everywhere on clothing, toys, books, school supplies, and even food containers. The first licensed lunch kit was a Hopalong Cassidy product, and this set the stage for the ‘rest’ of the cowboy stars.

As the new Hoppy was emerging as a cultural force, Boyd developed the Hopalong Code of Conduct, and Hoppy’s Troopers (similar to the Boy Scouts).

Hopalong Cassidy was a phenomenon like no other. After him followed the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Rex Allen. Each adopted some of the marketing strategies of Bill Boyd. Bill Boyd may not have been the best, but he was the first, and he was a true pioneer.

Bill Boyd passed away in 1974, and left behind a legacy that will never die.

Today, Hopalong Cassidy is alive and well. Sagebrush Entertainment, the copyright holder, has restored the Hopalong Cassidy films and the TV series is not far behind. If we are fortunate, the radio series will soon follow so we can follow the adventures of the man from the Bar 20.

Unlike Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, and Gene Autry, fans have not had a permanent museum to rekindle their youths with Hopalong until this year. The Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Diner has announced plans to build the "Hopalong Cassidy Museum", in Kenton, Missouri. The proposed facility will include rare collectibles directly from the copyright holders, a theatre, and other soon to be announced attractions.

No, Hopalong Cassidy is not dead.

Not even close.

On the internet, you can find Hoppy at:

Hoppy merchandise is difficult to find but the following links will help you complete your collection.

Suggested reading includes:

Hopalong Cassidy, The Clarence Mulford Story

Bernard A Drew: Scarecrow Press, Inc 1-800-462-6420

And any of the hardcovers or paperbacks.

So, after you have read an original Hopalong Cassidy, and watched one of the restored films, you decide which Hopalong you like. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Clarence E Mulford wrote for a different generation. Those that first read the Hopalong Cassidy stories were not necessarily those who drove the early Hoppy films and the craze of the 1950’s.

I picture it this way, while the children read the comic books, listened to the radio plays, and watched the television show, the fathers, and grandfathers read the original stories. While Hoppy walked into a town, and shot it up, Bill Boyd galloped in, and with style and minimal violence achieved the same end.

Different times. Different methods.

Does the Hollywood Hoppy necessarily minimize the Mulford Hoppy?

I believe they are foils of the same character. Neither is right, nor wrong. The new Hoppy was more moral and socially acceptable, where Mulford’s Hoppy did what he had to do, and left others to clean up.

Mulford’s aim was not to teach, but to entertain. This he did exceptionally well.

It really does not matter which Hoppy you prefer, the gambler, or the peacemaker. What matters is that you, as a reader, (or viewer), were taken from your present circumstance for just a little while, and saw right win over wrong.

After reading Bernard A Drew’s study of Mulford, and the evolution of Hoppy, I think he would have agreed.

Long Live Hopalong Cassidy!

Tim Lasiuta

Click HERE for more info and a Filmography on William 'Hoppy' Boyd


Interview/Article is (C)copyright Tim Lasiuta 2003 - And is printed here with the author's permission.
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